The first wave of solar appointments came and went.   I have to remember that they are sales men and women and their primary interest is to make the best possible sale.

They do not necessarily have my best interests at heart.

My electricity bill for last month was only $45.  The highest bill this year was $120.  I don’t use very much electricity.  Apparently the price of electricity in Malibu compares very favorably with other providers in the greater Los Angeles area.  My electricity is from coal fired generation and produced in Utah.

I don’t like using a clothes dryer and line dry my washing, I don’t have AC or a TV.

I have two main considerations when deciding upon which sort of solar solution to invest.  The first is aesthetic; I don’t want an ugly system on the roof of my house.  The roof needs replacing anyway so I have decided that I want black shingles rather than the tan already there.  This will camouflage the solar panels and give the house a ‘Tudor Japanese’ appearance.

The second consideration is far more complicated.  Do I really need solar when my electricity bills are so low?  If I had solar would I use more electricity?  Would I get air conditioning?  Would I use the dryer? What sort of mega wattage should I get?

As I said, it’s hard to get independent advice from sales people.

The first company I met with was called ‘Phat Energy’ and, as the name suggests, they are aiming to have cool solutions for all your Solar needs.   The two guys that turned up seemed impressively prepared with figures and plans.  Yet, if I am honest, because they were first company I met with they were at a little bit of a disadvantage.

Phat Energy provided a plan for an ‘off the grid’ scenario and a ‘pay back’ solution.  The former is as it sounds, I generate electricity to cover all my needs.  The latter essentially means that you make electricity during the day that pumps into the grid then at night I buy electricity if and when I need it.

The ‘pay back’ solution seems most sensible.   I might very well turn a profit using this scenario.

After all federal and local grants, tax credits and rebates one can expect a 50% reduction on the initial cost.  This makes solar a very affordable solution.

Still, at approximately $20k this capital investment will take 10 years or more to pay for itself.

I asked them to consider letting me pay them over three months.  They balked but I urged them to consider it.

The younger of the two sales men from Phat was very persuasive.  However, it made me smile when he tried to factor the increase of house value when making my decision.  I laughed.  Nobody is selling anything in my neighborhood and house prices have diminished by 30%.  In my reckoning this financial situation/crisis may last for the next 7 years.

Ultimately the decision is largely a moral one.  I believe that every house in Southern California should be generating electricity so I should put my money where my mouth is.

The second sales man, Alex, from Suntrek a company based out of Irvine.   An ex-professional baseball player Alex explored the property thoroughly and creatively offered alternative solutions from water pumping to cooking.   His visit was largely to assess the site and discuss my needs.  Equipped with knowledge from the earlier conversation with ‘Phat’ this blue-eyed sales man quickly understood my needs and, he concluded, I will be hearing from him shortly.

The rest of the day was taken up with a visit from David the architect who will reconfigure the interior of the house-so I get to have another bedroom and use the space more efficiently.   Hard on his heels the contractor pitched up, he will be building the goat and chicken shelter.  Finally the guys from ‘An Edible Garden’, Julianna and Kevin.

Julianna was reassuringly posh and Kevin reassuringly gay.  I liked their attitude and responses to the site.  They spoke my garden language and I am going to very much enjoy working with them during the coming year.  During their three hours at the house we discussed, amongst many other things, a timetable of events.  These events included when and what crops would be planted, critters, irrigation and site preparation.

My friend Jennifer and her children arrived and we sat around imagining all sorts of jams, chutney’s and preserves that I might want to cook with excess produce.

Julianna and Kevin were particularly impressed with the natural spring at the bottom of the property, which will provide free water for the crops and will be pumped using a solar pump directly into the vegetable garden.

So, the Malibu house adventure has begun.